I enrolled at Winona State as a Pre-Nursing major because helping people was what came naturally to me. It wasn’t that I knew what to do in an emergency situation, but I knew how people could get better when they were sick or injured. After a semester, I learned that memorizing anatomy was not my strong suit; instead, I learned that psychology was what really fascinated me. I love to know why people act certain ways and feel certain things.
Near the end of my freshman year, I really began to think about my future in the nursing field. My grades weren’t terrible, but they weren’t the best. This led my advisor to estimate that I would have gotten into the nursing program in what would have been my senior year. In order to apply to the program, I would have had to get my Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certificate, which really bothered me. I am not very comfortable touching other people unless they are really special to me; CNA’s do all the “up close and personal” jobs, including showering the residents and helping them go to the restroom. Becoming a CNA also costs around $1,000 and that was something I certainly didn’t have.
Don’t get me wrong, I have so much respect for nurses. I know it isn’t an easy job to do. But after almost an entire year of thinking about my future, I was uncertain that nursing was really for me. At first, I decided to tough it out because not only do nurses have a pretty stable job their entire careers, but also I had someone tell me that they thought I would never succeed in that field. Being the stubborn girl I am, I tried to prove them wrong.
After talking with my advisor and telling her that I still wanted to help people—just not the way a nurse can—she suggested that I talk to the Social Work faculty. Despite previous experience with helping friends in situations that constituted a social worker, that field never crossed my mind for some reason. It seemed like the perfect fit for me: helping others through difficult times and still being a part of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.
So in April, I officially changed my major from Pre-Nursing to Social Work with a CAST minor.
CAST stands for Child Advocacy Studies. Before even entering college, I knew I wanted to work with kids to be an aid in abusive situations. I love kids and they are, quite literally, our future. I felt it was important for me to make the world safer for them.
Most people would associate Social Work/CAST with a person who wants to work with Child Protective Services, but that person isn’t me. Sure, I may have dabbled in the thought of becoming a CPS agent, but my dream is to work in a high school.
A high school?
Okay, hear me out (I give this spiel to everyone): statistically speaking, the older a child gets, the less likely they are to still be abused. However, I think that because people know that statistic, they forget about the older population of minors who still live with those unfortunate experiences—and that’s where I plan to come in.
I had a really good friend in high school go through a rough time with her family; I remember thinking, I really wish I knew what to do that could help her. My goal is to not only learn how to help teenagers like her, but also to be that help for them.
Ever since I began taking classes for my minor, I’ve noticed more and more parents do things that could be considered neglectful or abusive in the eyes of the law. It absolutely breaks my heart. I’ve been very vocal about my various jobs in retail, and that is where I see most of the action related to this article. If you haven’t already checked out my other articles, you can do so here.
Winona, like many other places in this country, is full of people who weren’t ready to become parents when they had their children. Within my first week on the job, I witnessed a woman actually raise her voice at her brand-new infant for crying. Correct me if I’m wrong, but crying is the only way for babies to communicate; it’s not like the baby could have raised her hand and said, “Hey, Mom, we’ve been in here a long time and my stomach [that is the approximate size of an apricot] is empty.”
I’ve seen children riding at the bottom of the cart with their head dragging on the ground and I cringe when I think about it somehow getting caught underneath, potentially snapping their neck. I’ve heard parents call their children names that would have made a movie rated-R.
I’ve seen hundreds of children running around the parking lot without coats in freezing temperatures. Yes, I know that there is a thing going around the Internet that kids shouldn’t wear coats in their car seats because it makes the straps too loose and that they will be fine for the short distance from the car to the destination. But, the cold temperatures weaken immune systems, especially for kiddos whose immune systems are still developing.
Don’t fight me on this—I didn’t take two years of Anatomy and Physiology classes for nothing.
And before you come at me with “It takes two seconds to walk from the car to the store—no coat is fine!” I’ll just let you know that I didn’t wear my jacket from the car to the building because I also thought it wouldn’t matter. But guess who developed pneumonia and almost died.
That’s right. Me.
Me at Urgent Care with Pneumonia, 2014.
As you can see, I wasn’t an itty-bitty toddler. I was a 16-year-old girl whose immune system should have been A-1.
My point is, parents who don’t make their kids wear winter coats when it’s cold out are displaying neglectful behaviors.
One thing that’s always stuck with me is a mother and daughter who came through my lane one night around 9:30. They had different snacks and drinks, but the mom wanted cigarettes. I mean, she really wanted them. She didn’t have enough money for all the food items and her tobacco, so she had me put the snacks away and forced her daughter to give her all her money (which was $4 in a mix of dimes and nickels). They left with an unopened box of cigarettes and no food.
Whenever I come across situations like these, I become frustrated because there’s nothing I can do right now. I don’t have the training or the knowledge to take the proper steps to help these kids. And these incidents are just the tip of the iceberg: after graduation, there will be worse cases than kids without coats or moms who just want legal smokes. There will be kids living in a troll-hole of a house infested with rodents and without the adequate necessities they need. There will be kids who show up to school with a new bruise every day.
Quite honestly, it scares me to be going into that profession. Not because I’m not mentally or emotionally ready to handle it, but because even now there are thousands of people living in those situations. I’m worried that none of my efforts will be good enough for what they deserve. I have faith that my education will eliminate my fear, and with the experiences I’ve had, I know that switching my major was the right call for me.